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From Killer Zombies to Killer Storms: A Conversation with Sarah Wayne Callies for the release of Into the Storm

17 August 2014

In the span of a single day, the town of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run towards the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot.

Told through the eyes and lenses of professional storm chasers, thrill-seeking amateurs, and courageous townspeople, “Into the Storm” throws you directly into the eye of the storm to experience Mother Nature at her most extreme.


What was the draw for you to be a part of Into the Storm?

I thought it’d be fun to do a big, crazy special effects movie.  I’ve never done anything like that before.  And then I read it and what really held my attention was the fact that it’s this huge spectacle of a movie, but, at the same time, it’s also a story about how people who are strangers can become almost family in the course of a single day when that day threatens all their lives and is chaotic and overwhelming.  I just think there’s something really moving about that.  It’s the story of strangers who become family in the course of 24 hours. 

The catalyst to that, obviously, is a tornado and it’s amazing and cool to see all that thrashing around.  But I think from a human perspective, it’s really simple and really moving.  It’s interesting.  We never know whether we’re heroes or cowards until the sirens go off and the storm is coming.  You learn so much about yourself in those moments that you can’t know otherwise.  Movies like this are fascinating because inevitably we end up casting ourselves in them and thinking, ‘Well, I hope I would do this and I think I would do that.’

Storytelling is an old thing that humans have done for as long as we’ve been around.  We tell each other stories to try and figure out who we are.  This is a summer movie but it’s still a movie that tells us something about who we are and who we might be.

You play Allison Stone, who a climatologist and meteorologist and has joined the storm-chasing team for the first time.  What can you tell us about her?

Allison is somebody who’s studied weather events in depth and with a great deal of passion and who has incredibly strong opinions about the need for certain kinds of climate work, to demonstrate certain things about climate change.  In a way, she’s sort of a combination between an academic and ideologue, and all of a sudden these storms leap out of her textbook and into her face.

So, it’s the story of a woman who’s had a lot of ideas and a lot of theories about weather and about the politics of weather who all of a sudden finds herself very much immersed in the practicalities of weather, which are two very different things.  She’s getting her hands dirty for the first time and it’s very, very dirty. 


I understand you did quite a bit of research for the role?

I did.  I mean, I’m the daughter of academics.  Research is just part of my de facto approach to things.  So I got a meteorology textbook and thought I would just read it and try and make sense of it.  But about fifteen pages in, I discovered that I quite simply did not have the physics to wrap my head around what was going on.

So I reached out to a professor of meteorology at the University of Michigan, which is in Ann Arbor, very close to where we shot in Detroit.  I just ‘cold called’ him.  He was the emeritus professor or chair of the department, and turned out to be a gentleman, I believe, in his 80’s.  So, when I called, I sounded like a little like valley girl, ‘Hello, I’m an actor and I have some questions about weather.  It’s a new movie.’  And, bless his heart, we actually met for lunch while I was filming and he was so patient, answered all kinds of questions for me and drew me all kinds of pictures that helped break down the science for somebody who has never been particularly strong in that suit.  He was a doll.

And then, of course, I would take it to Steve.  I’d say, ‘Steve, okay, you know how they say vorticity and none of us knows what that means?’  And we’d draw pictures and get all excited.  Steve’s a big geek like I am, and we thought it was super cool to be able to be really specific about what all this stuff means and to be able to throw that language around in a way that Allison could. 


Was he a fan of The Walking Dead?

No.  I mean, granted, I have met people who are fans of the show in their 80’s but he did tell me that he told his son and his son was excited about it.  And he looked me dead in the eye and he said, ‘For the life of me I don’t know why.’  [Laughs]  And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s fantastic!  I’ve never been to your classes before.  You’ve never seen my work.  We’re strangers and we’re collaborating for the moment.’

I will say that I think there’s a decent chance he’ll see the movie and as we were shooting it, one of my only goals was to make sure that he wouldn’t see the movie and think, like, ‘I took my time with this woman and she didn’t take it in and was a bad student.’  I didn’t want him to flunk me.  [Laughs] 





Into the Storm Film Page